Software: The Write Stuff

Keith White
5 March, 2011
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Dragon Dictate for Mac (From $219.95)

This month we’re looking at four different programs to help you manage words. First is Dragon Dictate for Mac, essentially an enhanced MacSpeech Dictate 1.5 rebadged directly under Nuance rather than under licence.

Because I hate headsets I’ve been using my RØDE Podcaster on a flexible arm with MacSpeech Dictate, but I’ve noticed occasional bad-hair days. Consistent mic position is crucial for voice recognition software and this is more easily achieved with a headset. So that’s where I’m headed. Dragon Dictate is available with an approved Plantronics headset for $249.95, and with a wireless version for $349.95.

Install the software, follow the prompts to train the recognition engine and you’re ready to start hands-free typing into almost any Mac program that uses text. There are many options to improve recognition even further but it’s pretty good out of the box. You can also get the Dragon to control a swag of basic computer operations if you want your hands to wither away completely.

Scrivener 2.0 (US$45)
This is a major upgrade of a multi-featured program for people who write seriously. As well as ‘professional’ writers this includes students, academics, translators and family historians.
Scrivener allows you to build or assemble the various parts of your project under one roof. You can create and edit raw text, organise or rearrange text sections and output to a range of standard formats including iPad and Kindle. Templates set you up quickly for novels, movie/radio scripts, essays, academic papers and more.

You don’t need to master all Scrivener’s daunting array of features to get started but there will be a learning curve. Well worth a look if you’re planning a writing project of size and importance.

Paperless (US$49.95)

Another organisational aid, Paperless helps you convert written documents of any sort into organised, searchable digital libraries.

How many times have you gone looking for receipts, reports or warranties? Have you ever lamented the environmental cost of the clutter of paper all around you? Ever needed to quickly prepare an expenses report from a stack of receipts? Paperless can help with all of this.

A nice feature for me is its seamless integration with the Fujitsu ScanSnap (AMW, September 2010; but you can set it up for any scanner. You can even snap receipts with your Mac’s iSight camera. Not an ideal solution but OK as a last resort.

Documents already in digital format can be added to your libraries. This is very useful, for example, for safe storage of all those PDF user manuals that came on disk or that you downloaded from the internet. Paperless, formerly ReceiptWallet, has been around for a while and knows its stuff. If your home or business office is brimming with disorganised paper it’s got the features to help you sort it all out.

Stationery Pack Business Edition (£49.95)

Finally, now that you’re all tidied up, add some style to your emails with Equinux’s new Stationery Pack Business Edition. These are a range of high-quality templates which, after installation, are accessible in Mail.

Hit New Message and then click on the Show Stationery button in the top right of the window. There’s a whole gamut from the personal – birthdays, social events, thank-yous and get-wells – to business formal. These latter come in a range of styles and forms – memos, letters, offers, invoices. Many have placeholders into which you can drop your own images direct from the Photo Browser.
Nice designs with a wide range of options, the Stationery Pack can easily add a professional look to your emails. C

One Comment

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  1. Tim.E-H says:

    Can’t go past Scrivener – definitely *the* best writing application on the planet. You can ignore all the power features and just write, or you can tweak to create your own perfect writing environment. I can’t imagine writing my thesis without it (actually I can, but I have enough nightmares without adding imagining more).

    I keep trying to use Dragon Dictate – definitely an improvement over MacSpeech Dictate, but I still struggle to incorporate it into my daily flow or to get satisfactory results.

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